Unionized Employees Need To Know About Their Rights

Unionized Employees Need To Know About Their Rights

For many people, unions sound like the answer to all problems. Unions can provide many benefits to the workers that they cover, and they can provide a great deal of job security that non-unionized positions do not have. However, there are also drawbacks to joining a union that many people may not be aware of when they first join.

As you might prepare to consider joining a union, make sure you investigate what that will mean for you and your job. Being aware of the pros and cons of what you are entering into is a good way to make sure that it is the right fit for you, and it will allow you to properly recognize any issues as they arise.

This article will outline some important pros and cons of being part of a union, which every worker should know before joining.

What is a Union?

Unions, sometimes called trade unions or labour unions, are an organization of workers who aim to provide good working conditions for their members. They will typically create and enforce a contract with their employer that represents their requested working conditions and rights as workers. 

Unions typically function as democracies and use the voice of workers to advocate for things that they want from their employers. 

In Ontario, many groups of workers are currently unionized including nurses, teachers, and postal workers. 

Workplaces with unions can be either open or closed. In a closed union workplace, employees must join the union in order to qualify for a position. In an open union workplace, employees can choose whether or not they would like to join the union. 

What are the benefits of unions?

Being a member of a union can provide workers with many benefits that they might not receive if they are not unionized. Some of those benefits include:

  • Providing workers with strong protections. In most job positions in Ontario, a worker can be fired without cause at any time, provided that their employers properly follow their legal obligations. As part of a union, workers are much more difficult to fire, there are more lengthy investigations into cause, and the process is controlled and delegated to the union and its representatives.
  • Unions can secure their members higher wages and a better benefits plan. Union agreements can often get their members a higher rate of pay than if their members were not unionized. Sometimes, employers who see this will raise the rate of pay for their non-unionized employees to compete. 
  • Setting safety and workforce trends. Unions can provide safety for their members and encourage following closely to workplace safety rules.
  • Organizing strikes and workplace action. If unions experience problems with their workplaces, it can be much easier for them to organize a strike or worker action than if they were not an organized union. 
  • Helping workers defend themselves. When unions do their jobs well, they can help advocate for the rights of their workers against unfair conditions or situations. 

What are the drawbacks of unions?

While there are benefits to joining a union, there are also drawbacks that you might not already be aware of. Some of those drawbacks include:

  • Paying union dues and fees. Unions do not operate for free, and members may be required to pay high fees to keep their place. In closed union environments, employees may not get a choice at all as to whether or not they want to join and have to pay the fees. 
  • Union members may not agree with union decisions. There are times when a union may make a decision, such as to go on strike, that their members might not agree with, but must participate in anyway. 
  • Union members may lose out on individual rights. While unions are supposed to be supporting each member, the people who run unions are still human, and sometimes mistakes happen or individual members are treated unfairly. Unlike regular workers, union members do not have the same ability to refer to the Employment Standards Act or to hire outside representation. Instead, grievances must be placed through the union, unless there is a human rights offense. 
  • Unions can make it difficult to promote or fire workers. While employees in unions enjoy the benefits of job security, it can also be a detriment if someone has not received a promotion they deserve, or if someone is not doing their job and should be fired. 
  • Unions can pit workers against their employers. While unions can create comradery between coworkers, they can also create issues between workers and their employers, creating toxic environments. 


Unions can provide many benefits to workers, but workers should also be aware of their drawbacks before agreeing to join a union. Ask fellow employees about their experiences with the union that you are considering, and take the time to consider whether the union will be right for you.

If you have questions about joining a union, what your rights are as a unionized employee, or if you have other legal questions, don’t hesitate to speak to a qualified workplace lawyer at Achkar Law. 

Related Reading

Can I File Complaints Against My Union for Discrimination?

Adjusting Unionized Employees’ Work Duties

How A Human Rights Lawyer Can Help Unionized Employees

Application for Union Certification: What You Need to Know

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employer or an employee with questions about unions, our team of qualified labour lawyers can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.